Monday, January 25, 2016

What's In My Z Palette?

At some point, every makeup hobbyist needs a Z Palette. A part of me can't help but feel the practice of selling individual pans of eyeshadow is basically a rort, but what next is there to buy when one owns Naked 1, 2 and 3 (and Too Faced Chocolate Bar and Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar and don't make me go on...). Point is, I needed a place to collate the Makeup Geek shadows I finally decided to buy after years of hesitation. Then because I bought the medium size, I had extra space to store random bits and bobs that I could satisfyingly remove from their original, bulky or damaged packaging. A personalised Z Palette often serves as a revealing, fun peek into one's makeup preferences, so I thought to dedicate a post about what's contained in mine.

For the section of eyeshadows in the first half of the palette, we have:
Top row: Makeup Geek Shimma Shimma, Makeup Geek I'm Peachless, Makeup Geek Glamorous, Makeup Geek Desert Sands
Second row: Makeup Geek Cosmopolitan, Makeup Geek Grandstand, Makeup Geek Roulette, Makeup Geek Cocoa Bear
Third row: Makeup Geek Homecoming, Makeup Geek Pretentious, Makeup Geek Carnival
Bottom row: Benefit Call My Buff, Benefit It's Complicated, Benefit Gilt-y Pleasure, Benefit Kiss Me, I'm Tipsy

In the second half of the palette (which I dub "cheek and miscellaneous"), we have in clockwise order:
Makeup Geek Secret Admirer, Inglot 402 Pearl, Kiko 213 Mat Cocoa, Benefit Coralista, Essence Mystic Lemon

I've already written briefly about the first bunch of Makeup Geek shadows I bought (featured in my July 2015 Favourites). Now I've had a few months to play with them, I can say which were hits and which were misses.

l-r: Makeup Geek Shimma Shimma, Glamorous, Cosmopolitan, Roulette, Homecoming, Cocoa Bear, Grandstand

I'm not the hugest fan of Shimma Shimma, though not because it's poor quality. I'm just not crazy about the colour (too light and whitish for my liking). I usually have to be ultra-picky when it comes to shades that work as an inner corner highlight, and Shimma Shimma isn't one of them. It looks odd, jarring and unnatural when I place it in the corner of my eyes. It works better as a cheek highlight, but I have other products I prefer.

Glamorous, Grandstand and Homecoming are great all-over lid options. Three absolute winners. I was hoping to love Cosmopolitan but it didn't blow me away. I was expecting some iridescent gold-warm pink shade, but it's more a coppery coral. Roulette is a bit too dark, bright and reddish for my daytime comfort level. Pigmentation is insane though. Cocoa Bear is a good alternative to your typical dark brown as it's distinctly red-toned and warm. Works well to deepen any eye look with similarly warm bronze/copper/russet lid shades.

l-r: Benefit Call My Buff, Benefit It's Complicated, Benefit Gilt-y Pleasure, Benefit Kiss Me, I'm Tipsy

I managed to depot the four powder eyeshadows from the Benefit World Famous Neutrals in Most Glamorous Nudes Ever (full review here). The unnecessarily bulky box is now housing my unused, discarded mini brushes that come with the Benefit boxed blushes. I don't find the texture or pigmentation of these shadows to be on par with Makeup Geek, but the shades do work harmoniously together (along with the included mini cream shadows in Birthday Suit and My Two Cents) to create a very pretty eye look. I wish Gilt-y Pleasure were darker as it's too light for my skin tone to work optimally as an all-over lid wash. Kiss Me, I'm Tipsy also has a tonne of fall out. It's Complicated is the most pigmented of the four and has a gorgeous duochrome quality, though I tend to isolate it only to the inner third of the eye to brighten and create a gradient effect, combined with a medium shade on the centre of the lid and a darker colour in the outer corner.

After the overall success of my first Makeup Geek order, I was encouraged to make a second order when the brand had free shipping on the final day of their 12 Days of Christmas promotions. I had a few shades already in mind, so the process of checking out was relatively swift and free of agonising deliberation. I picked out four eyeshadows, three of which were already on the wishlist (Carnival, I'm Peachless and Desert Sands), one of which I bought just to qualify for the free shipping minimum spend of $25 USD (Pretentious).

l-r: Makeup Geek Pretentious, Carnival, I'm Peachless, Desert Sands

The only one I really love is I'm Peachless. It's seriously beautiful. Not just on the eyes, but as a cheek highlighter. Seriously, try it. It's an absolute stunner. More beautiful than my previous eyeshadow-as-highlighter discovery, Kat Von D Metal Crush Eyeshadow in Thunderstruck, which is saying A LOT.

Carnival is fun to play around with and not too "unwearable" (plus I was afraid it would be too similar to Makeup Geek Secret Admirer blush, but it's darker, not as cool-toned and more pigmented). It's slightly patchy on application, but nothing too problematic.

l-r: Morphe Deep Skin, Too Faced Salted Caramel, Too Faced Peanut Butter, Makeup Geek Desert Sands

Makeup Geek Desert Sands is one of the brand's cult shades, but I didn't know if I needed it. I finally convinced myself I did, because it was more camel-toned (i.e. yellow) than comparable shades I already had, which were more orange or pink. While that might be true, I'm not sure if the difference once on the eyes is that noticeable to justify having 4 separate eyeshadows that a normal, non-makeup inclined person would find indistinguishable.

l-r: Urban Decay Smog, Anastasia Beverly Hills Self-Made, Too Cool For School Golden Edge, Makeup Geek Pretentious

Same could be said for Makeup Geek Pretentious, though I guess the differences are more pronounced (in the scheme of minuscule differences). At least it's not as green-tinged as Too Cool For School Golden Edge. I still prefer ABH Self-Made as it's more warm gold, but Pretentious is passable in terms of not being too khaki-toned for a bronze shade, or muddy.

l-r: Too Faced Frosting, Urban Decay Smog, Anastasia Beverly Hills Self-Made, Too Cool For School Golden Edge, Makeup Geek Pretentious, Too Faced Hazelnut

A couple more shades to compare Pretentious against. Both Frosting and Hazelnut are more dark brown. I guess Pretentious is closest to a cross between Urban Decay Smog and Too Cool For School Golden Edge. I definitely could have done without it, but then again, I couldn't for the life of me pick what other shade to buy that didn't seem utterly dupeable or an ultimate waste as I'd never wear it. Makeup Geek fans, am I missing any shades that I'd love but am currently oblivious to?

l-r: Makeup Geek Secret Admirer, Essence Mystic Lemon, Benefit Coralista, Kiko 213 Mat Cocoa, Inglot 402 Pearl

Finally, we have all the leftover shades that primarily are there to take up space. Makeup Geek Secret Admirer was purchased in my first Makeup Geek order. I wanted a pale, pastel lavender blush to fill the place of my never-delivered BBIA Downy Cheek in Downy Lavender, but the colour disappointingly applies just like an ordinary cool-toned plummy/rosy shade to my cheeks. I'm still keeping Essence Mystic Lemon as my el cheapo NARS Albatross dupe (or so I tell myself). Benefit Coralista was depotted from the unwieldy TropiCORAL Lip & Cheek Kit (so glad to be able to chuck that out), but I still find it more shimmer than pigment for a blush. The Kiko Infinity Eyeshadow in Mat Cocoa (213) is unremarkable, but not a bad product. It just doesn't inspire any excitement and I rarely use it. There are better dark brown options if I need something similar (e.g. LORAC Sable or Espresso). Inglot Freedom System Eyeshadow in 402 is a bit too cool-toned for my liking, but it's a solid satin-finish taupe with slight mauve/rose tones.

A pedantic part of me wishes I'd bought an extra large Z Palette and gradually aimed to fill it up entirely with neat rows of Makeup Geek shadows, but that would be an obscenely costly exercise for questionable reward. I guess that's the genius of Z Palettes — it's something you have to buy just to buy more of something else.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Colourpop Continued

I wasn't completely thrilled with my first Colourpop order, but I thought to give the brand another try. After all, my last order consisted only of their Super Shock eyeshadows and I wanted to test out some of their lip and cheek products. If I wasn't happy with those either, then at least I'd be satisfied I gave Colourpop a good go but things just didn't work out. When they were having a $5 off promotion around Christmas (sadly shipping was still exorbitant), I finally ordered a few items on my radar: Ultra Matte Lip in Trap and Midi, Lippie Pencil in Lumière, Super Shock Cheek in Monster and Super Shock Shadow in Nillionaire.

Colourpop Super Shock Cheek in Monster

The Super Shock Cheek in Monster was probably the product I was most excited about. I remember when Colourpop first came out with highlighters, Monster was the one shade that called out to me. I'm naturally drawn to highlighters that flash an opalescent/iridescent pink or purple as I find them rarer and more special than your typical gold, champagne or frosty/whitish variety. Seeing it reviewed and mentioned a few times on auxiliary beauty only reinforced that I needed it.

Fortunately Monster came as expected and its pronounced pinky/purple shift didn't disappoint. I can safely say I don't have anything like it in my bloated makeup collection, which is always pleasing and extra justification for purchasing. I'm still not 100% won over by the texture (very similar to their eyeshadows, if not the same) as I find it weirdly thin and emollient and capable of being blended away to nothing a bit too easily. However that same weirdly thin and emollient texture does have its benefits, like increased multipurpose use (for example, you could use Monster as an inner corner highlight, cream shadow, eyeshadow topper, or on top of lipstick for a metallic overlay or accent).

l-r: Super Shock Cheek in Monster, Super Shock Shadow in Nillionaire

The Super Shock Shadow in Nillionaire was entirely enabled by Tiffany. This one definitely did not look as good on me as it did her. I wished it was more of a neutral-to-warm gold leaf effect, but on my lids, it looks too greyish/greenish, dull and muddy. The underlying colour is like a medium khaki taupe rather than something closer to my all-time favourite shadow, the left side of the NARS Kalahari duo. It's a typical problem I have with similar colours (think L'Oréal Infallible eyeshadow in Sahara Treasure), but clearly I never learn.

I've also concluded after trying 6 Colourpop eyeshadows that I simply dislike the texture of them. Sure, the shimmery shades have the advantage of no fall out, but you have to apply them with your finger, they need to be layered multiple times to achieve desired opacity, and any blending needs to be targeted and careful otherwise it will become a glittery mess quickly.

l-r: Lippie Pencil in Lumière, Ultra Matte Lip in Midi and Trap

Moving onto the lip products. These I generally liked. I was tempted to order a single Lippie Stix (it probably would've been Tootsi) just to see what they were like, but in the end I decided to keep my cart as tight as possible.

The lip liners (Lippie Pencils) tend to garner more raves than the lipsticks from reviews I've come across, so I opted for the shade made in collaboration with KathleenLights, Lumière. It looked good on her (worn in this video) and was featured in her November 2015 Favourites, plus it's been compared with NARS Audacious Lipstick in Anna, so I had high hopes. It's a great lip pencil for the price. Very pigmented, a nice texture (not too dry, not overly soft and creamy), long lasting and fairly comfortable on the lips. These kind of deeper, purply rosy mauve shades are fashionable now, so it's fun to experiment with a trendy shade without breaking the bank.

Speaking of trendy lip colour, the Ultra Matte Lip in Trap was an unabashed foray into that world. After Monster, it was the product I was most excited about (and we're talking a very close second). Trap is decidedly darker, more cool-toned and greyish than Lumière, though the two certainly have their similarities. So long as the rest of your face makeup works with it, it's a striking statement colour that isn't too out there and certainly not unflattering.

Midi is a lighter, nude, less purple version of Trap. It's warmer and more pink. I think it's super pretty, though like most nude shades, it requires a flawless base to shine, otherwise it can emphasise any areas of redness and unevenness in the complexion.

There have been comments about the formula of these liquid matte lipsticks not being the best. Personally, I don't find them too bad, though your lips do need to be in good condition (if you have dry, chapped or flaky lips, forget it). They're slightly drying, but nothing major. I didn't experience separating, cracking or flaking, though I usually don't wear a lip product for longer than 1-2 hours until I start eating and it all comes off, or I just remove it because I can't be bothered anymore and I dislike the feel of product on my lips. You can apply a lip balm or gloss over these to make them more hydrating and change the finish while retaining the colour.

l-r: Lippie Pencil in Lumière, Ultra Matte Lip in Midi and Trap, Super Shock Cheek in Monster, Super Shock Shadow in Nillionaire

Overall, this was a more successful order than my last one, mostly thanks to the lip products and Monster meeting expectations. To me, the appeal of Colourpop is its ability to deliver a huge product range with trendy, creative and more unusual shades at an affordable price point (so long as you live in the States). I'll be steering clear of the eyeshadows from now on though.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Best of 2015

Is it just me, or are yearly favourites posts/videos not that exciting anymore? I'm not sensing as much interest in them as say, 2-3 years ago. Most bloggers do monthly favourites, so the yearly one is a "best of the monthly favourites" more than anything. Still, I wouldn't feel right not following tradition, so here are the products that stood out to me the most in 2015.

Morphe Brushes Jaclyn Hill Favorites Palette
Even though shipping cost more than the palette itself and I jumped through hoops to order it (including abruptly waking up at some obscene hour and entering my credit card details bleary-eyed), this 28-pan eyeshadow palette is a classic example of a product only a makeup junkie would buy, and could fully appreciate. Given it's limited edition, I feel happy and lucky even (corny as it sounds) to have it in my possession. There isn't a single dud in terms of pigmentation and texture. The matte shades are the best I've tried for the price point. Full review and swatches here.

Australis Velourlips Matte Lip Cream in Pa-ree
Though I have too many lip products to count, rarely do I encounter one that genuinely is a game changer. Pa-ree is just that. The matte lip cream formula is virtually faultless — far and away the most comfortable and forgiving I've tried, while remaining ultra matte and opaque. But the colour is what makes this product special. It's unlike any nude I've ever come across. A muted peachy caramel with slight greige tones. Obsessed.

YSL Le Teint Touche Éclat
My favourite foundation discovery of the year, beating other high end contenders like Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation, Dior Diorskin Nude BB Creme and Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation. Simply put, Le Teint Touche Éclat beautifies your complexion while still retaining the appearance of natural skin. Good coverage and a soft, radiant, airbrushed finish. Especially great for dry skin.

Essie Cocktail Bling
I know buying Cocktail Bling ... can only mean one thing. That it'll be on my toes and fingers for pretty much most of the year, no exaggeration. I like it more than comparable, sophisticated neutrals like Nails Inc. Porchester Square or OPI Tickle My France-y. It's that kind of effortlessly cool colour you wear while dreaming of a Scandi kitchen and the perfect roll neck sweater.

Rimmel ScandalEyes Shadow Stick in Bad Girl Bronze
An ancient product, but one that I felt deserved a mention here. Absolutely on par with any high end offering, this has been a failproof, go-to option at home, on the run, and travelling abroad. Creamy but not hard to work with and intensely pigmented, the colour is gorgeous (look at the multi-coloured shimmer in the light and tell me otherwise), it lasts forever and the stick format ensures it can be used as eyeliner or cream shadow. Back up already purchased.

Maybelline HyperSharp Wing Liquid Liner
I didn't think I'd find anything to rival the Dolly Wink Liquid Eyeliner in last year's favourites, but I was pleasantly surprised at how good this Maybelline one is. I've been using it nonstop since I bought mine in August. It's everything you want in a liquid liner: easy to use, precise, a non-floppy or fraying tip, nicely black and not watery or grey, long wearing, and won't run out in a week (mine is admittedly on its last legs, but it has been over 4 months).

Rosebud Perfume Co. Rosebud Salve
I really didn't expect to like this as much as I did. Initially, I thought it was no better than slightly fancier Vaseline. But consistent use throughout the year has made me see the light. Soothing, moisturising and pleasant to use, it also gives the lips a cushiony, glossy rosiness that's awfully pretty.

Radical Hydrating Cleanser
Yes, $52 for a cleanser is steep, but this has been my standout skin care product of 2015. My tube hasn't run out yet, and I've been using it almost daily for 6 months, with a few short-lived breaks as I briefly turned my attention to other options. For a morning cleanser, I haven't come across anything better. Wonderful smelling, hydrating, non-foaming, gentle, nourishing-feeling, non-irritating to the eyes and easily washed off. Never leaves my skin feeling tight, dried out or stripped after I rinse it off.

Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara
The best mascara I've used all year. Excellent wand that gets to each lash. Extends, thickens and curls while minimising clumping. Formula is long lasting, doesn't transfer or flake. Often compared with Benefit Roller Lash, I have a sample of Roller Lash and find Lash Sensational superior.

Charlotte Tilbury Powder & Sculpt Brush
Honestly, I don't even know why I continue to buy or look at buying brushes to contour, highlight, powder or apply blush when this exists. Especially contour. I doubt I could find anything better than the Powder & Sculpt Brush for that purpose. Apart from the fact it's absolutely beautiful to look at, it's extremely functional. The shape, the hairs (not too floppy that it's hard to pick up product, but not prickly or lacking in softness by any means), the handle. Everything works for the results you want.

Wayne Goss Brush 14
Now this is a soft brush. Only my Suqqu Cheek Brush is softer in my entire brush collection, but that was $160 and this was $50. Brush 14 is my new staple in pigmented or soft-textured powder blushes. It applies and blends product like a dream. For the quality and craftsmanship, I think it's actually priced competitively.

Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow
Saved for the best for last, you could say. I called it earlier in the year when I predicted this would appear here. While undeniably pricey, I can confidently say if you have this, you basically don't need any other contouring or highlighting products. Because the individual 'Sculpt' and 'Highlight' pans are the pinnacle of both fields. You also get a whopping 16g of product which will last forever. And of course, the packaging is DIVINE.

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